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Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

New stadium planned for Sydenham

Blanchflower Stadium
The front view of the proposed new Blanchflower Stadium

A business consortium, Eastonville Traders Ltd, is proposing to build a new stadium for football and rugby in the Sydenham area of east Belfast.

The arena would have a 20,000-capacity and would be built on a 90-acre site beside the Danny Blanchflower Stadium, but would not host GAA fixtures.

The consortium claims the project is of interest to both the Irish Football Association and rugby's Ulster Branch.

The stadium would cost £66m to build and could be erected within 18 months.

The new facility would provide an alternative to the collapsed Maze Stadium project, but would not involve the GAA.

International football matches, Heineken Cup rugby games and other major fixtures, such as the Irish Cup final, could all be played at the venue.

It is proposed that the development would also house a national training centre for football and rugby, and a hotel, and that the total cost would be around £128m.

We believe our project is economically sustainable

Gilbert Graham, project manager

Belfast City Council are understood to be aware of the plans and it is believed that discussions have taken place with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

A proposal for a smaller stadium in the area has been in the pipeline for a number of years and was originally designed to compliment the larger Maze Stadium project.

The consortium believe that the cost of this project is more realistic in the current economic climate, the location more neutral, and it would provide better road links.

The stadium would also be close to George Best Belfast City Airport, and a link to the airport, via a new walkway, is proposed.

A proposal for a new railway halt on the present route from Belfast to Bangor is also a possibility.

No Irish League club has signed up to the proposal but one option for the future could see the venue offer a new home to Glentoran, if they sell their existing home at the Oval and move to the new stadium as tenants.

It is believed the only other proposal being considered by DCAL at present is the redevelopment of Windsor Park.

Blanchflower Stadium
How the Blanchflower Stadium would look from the inside

The IFA has not publicly confirmed its interest in the stadium, which it is thought will be named after Danny Blanchflower, while the Ulster Branch of the IRFU say they have made "no arrangements with the Danny Blanchflower Stadium".

"The Irish FA is currently working with the Sports Minister on a range of different options regarding a sports stadium in Northern Ireland," said an IFA statement.

"The Irish FA welcomes any proposals at this stage - provided the finances stack up," they concluded.

The GAA has said it will present fresh proposals of their own for a new multi-purpose stadium to DCAL before the end of the week.

Gilbert Graham, Project Manager for the Scheme, said he believed the proposal would be one of those put to DCAL Minister Gregory Campbell by football and rugby authorities in the province.

"We have spoken with both organisations at length on numerous occasions and everything seems to be positive.

"It is a clear option for both parties - an option rather than the option.

"We believe our project is economically sustainable and we are hoping that the rail link may include a new halt which would serve the stadium and the airport across the road."

see also
Minister rejects stadium claims
26 Feb 09 |  Northern Ireland
No sports stadium at prison site
28 Jan 09 |  Northern Ireland